Novodevichy Convent and cemetery in Moscow is one the places to visit in Russia, if you wish:
- first, to see “one of the brightest examples of Russian architecture”, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
- then take a break from your hectic journey in the Russian capital;
- and finally discover the faces of famous Russian men and women.
In order to prepare for the visit to this place, I suggest that you see the history of Novodevichy together, then discover the information and practical elements that will be useful to you once there. Novodevichy Convent is one of the most interesting things to do in Moscow.
Good to know! The Novodevichy Convent is under renovation until the end of October 2022. Work is progressing little by little, but most of the exterior is done in early 2020.
Why should you visit the Novodevichy convent and cemetery?
The convent has gone through different eras in the history of Russia. Therefore, its architecture, interiors and cemetery will not leave you indifferent.
The history of Novodevichy Convent
When and why?
The convent was built in 1524 by the Vassili III ukaz, to celebrate the conquest of Smolensk and his return to Moscow.
In which purpose?
Surrounded by walls and thus built like a fortress, the Novodevichy convent had the function of defending the city of Moscow in the event of an invasion. Several neighboring villages were then dependent on the convent. For centuries, its walls welcomed women and girls (dievouchki: girls in Russian) from the Russian aristocracy and even members of the dynasty, who, for the most part, were sent here rather by force than by the will. A donation accompanied entry to the convent. The Novodevichy Convent was considered at that time to be one of the richest and the most prestigious monastery in Russia.
Why this name?
Before the convent was built, during the Mongol invasion, it was here that we looked like all the beautiful young girls (dievouchki: young women in Russian) from Moscow in order to send them as “offerings” to the Golden Horde.
During the USSR
Under the USSR, religious buildings took on new functions (Karl Marx: “Religion is the opium of the people.”). The Novodievichi Convent could not escape it. The place has been transformed into the Women’s Liberation Museum.
The calm, architecture and richness of the interiors
The architecture of the whole blends perfectly with nature. The white walls of the convent are reflected in the water. The convent park is huge. The place is calm and relaxing. This is a real breath of fresh air after the Moscow center! Behind the walls, there is an exceptional architectural ensemble, as well as the magnificent icons and frescoes.
The convent is also known for its cemetery. Here we find famous personalities from Russia. Many compare it to Père-Lachaise in Paris and even find that the cemetery is worth the detour than the monastery. For my part, I find that the cemetery of the Alexandre Nevsky convent in Saint Petersburg is also interesting.
Everyone has their preferences, but in any case, the cemetery adds an additional attraction for visiting Novodevichy. Later in this article you will find more information about the cemetery.
Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery: Practical Information
Here is some practical information to know before you get there.
How to get there?
The convent is quite far from downtown Moscow: 1 hour and 15 minutes on foot from the Moscow Kremlin. The best way is to take public transport. Several options are available to you:
- Bus M3. The route of this bus is very practical to go to the Novodevichy Convent and cemetery. In addition, it is always more pleasant to stay on the surface and not get on the metro (even if it is very beautiful). From Teatralnaya ploschad (just opposite the Bolshoi theater) to the convent, it will take 25 minutes; 30 – if you come from Kitaï Gorod. The route is pretty nice and the bus stop is right next to the entrance! The only risk is traffic jams (office hours to avoid: before 9 a.m., after 5 p.m.).
- Sportivnaya (line 1, red) is the nearest metro station (fyi: post about metro stations: Most beautiful metro stations in Moscow). It will take less than 20 minutes from Kitai Gorod, which is on the same line, and 10 minutes on foot from Sportivnaya station at the entrance to the convent. The path on foot is therefore not unpleasant: fairly quiet, among mostly residential buildings.
- Find out more about transport in this blog post: Public transport (metro, bus) in Moscow.
Walking around. The former Tolstoy house is more or less in the same area, a few stops from M3 before Novodevichy (stop: Ulitsa Lva Tolsotogo). The interior and furniture of this house, transformed into a museum, are original. There are some guided tours in English to Novodevichy Convent and cemetery that could be interesting.
Where are the entrances to the convent and the cemetery?
There is an entrance for the convent and another for the cemetery. Normally, you can also access the cemetery from the territory of the convent, but the last time we went there this access was closed (because of renovation). To get to the cemetery, it’s best to go through the main entrance to the cemetery.
What are the opening hours of the Novodevichy Convent and cemetery?
- Access to the monastery is daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (depending on the end of the liturgies), except in exceptional cases.
- Entrance to the monastery museum is daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Tuesday and the first Monday of the month.
- Access to the cemetery. From May to September: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. October to April: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Every day of the week.
Good to know! Liturgies are daily. Usually in the morning – at 7.40 a.m. and in the evening – at 5.00 p.m. Sundays and days of major celebrations – at 6:20 am and 8:40 am. In order to be able to attend the morning liturgies, I know of no other solution than being orthodox practitioners. On the other hand, for the evening ones – I think it’s possible, discreetly, of course. Smolensk Cathedral, the main cathedral, is closed from early October to mid-May.
As the monastery’s official website is in Russian, here is the link to TripAdvisor.
How to buy entry tickets?
Access to the Novodevichy Convent Cemetery is normally free. But since July 2019, the cemetery has paid entry only for foreign tourists (300 RUB / person). It is not cool, but it is working like that for the moment.
Access to the convent area is free, but it costs 300 RUB for exhibitions and a visit to Smolensk Cathedral, 100 RUB – for taking photos and 200 RUB – for videos. If you are a student (proof required): 100 RUB.
Novodevichy convent and cemetery: what to see?
I will describe below what you can discover during your walk in the Novodevichy Convent. However, unfortunately, the official site of the Novodevichy ensemble is in Russian only.
The Novodevichy Convent
Here is the map of the Novodevichy Convent and cemetery from the official website in Russian, to give you an idea of the whole.
Novodevichy cemetery: what to see and Novodevichy cemetery map
As noted above, many famous Russian figures rest in this cemetery. Very different personalities, moreover, who perhaps would never have appreciated this proximity. Nevertheless, this is one of the reasons why I find the visit to the cemetery interesting. Always from my point of view: I do not think it is a good idea to come to see the tombs (they remain fairly sober overall).
Buried personalities in Novodevichy cemetery
Here are some names of the personalities buried in Novodevichy:
- Mikhail Bulgakov, author of the famous novel Master and Margarita
- Nicolas Gogol, writer
- Anton Chekhov, author of numerous literary works, some of which are staged even today, such as La Mouette
- Sergei Prokofiev, Russian composer, pianist and conductor
- Sergei Eisenstein, Russian filmmaker from the Soviet period
- Nikita Khrushchev
- Boris Yeltsin, first president of the Russian Federation right after the collapse of the USSR
Novodevichy cemetery map
Below you will find the Novodevichy cemetery map that I found on the website of the Moscow city hall.
The entrance is at the very bottom of the Novodevichy cemetery map on the left (“ВХОД”). Here are the coordinates of the graves of some famous personalities:
- Bulgakov => 2nd section (“участок”), row 21st row
- Prokofiev => 3rd section, 47th row
If you are looking for a particular personality, write me, I can help.
Hope this blog post, including Novodevichy cemetery map, will be helpful for visiting the Novodevichy convent and cemetery during your trip to Moscow.